Thursday, April 30, 2015


Dreams:  Not much in the dream department lately.  I did dream something or other, I just can't recall it.  The stuff I can recall is pure id-fantasy that I'll keep private.

Writing:  Did some critiquing, then turned to the S&S piece.  I am at the part where I am doubting that the story works as a character piece.  It's got plenty of action and events, and as a milieu piece it works.  It's not much of an idea story, but that was never my intension.  Part of what's happened is that the story stopped being about the emotional conflict between protagonist and an old acquaintance and focused on the Really Cool Lair (with Magic!).  I've gotten a little bogged down with some armor details, since the POV protagonist is a swords-woman, she's going to notice what kind of armor (mostly bad) other people are wearing.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

On Being A Better Person

Friday night I was reading a writing guide by Orson Scott Card.  It had the usual writing 101 advice in it, along with the MICE Quotient idea in it.  At the end of the last chapter, one of the rules he listed about writing was "remember to be a good person."   He then went on to say something along the lines of "be like the good guy protagonists you like to read and write about."

Fast forward to Monday morning.  I was listening to "Performance Today" on KWAX, and a famous Greek violinist was telling how she studied under Itzhak Perlman, and his first rule of being a good violist was "being a good person comes before everything else."  

I'm taking this as A Sign and a gentle reminder as I climb back onto the horse of writing as a spiritual practice.  

OK. True confession time:  Clash of Clans is an evil, addicting time sink.  It uses a combination of scheduled reinforcement (jewel awards, which can be cashed in for game resources), and random reinforcement (trophies for winning battles or successfully defending from other players' attacks) to keep you coming back.  Since the village is infinitely configurable, there's a draw to fiddle with village walls and defenses to get That Perfect Design.  And since training troops (barbarians, archers, giants, wizards, etc), building defenses (cannons, archer towers, wizard towers, Tesla towers, etc) , and developing resources (gold mine, and elixir pumping stations) have built-in time delays--anything from 5 minutes to 2 days--there's always that new perk waiting for you around the corner.

Why, yes; I'm playing it as a family activity so I can be a better person.

Writing:  Been working on critiques for Wordos, and also finishing up the S&S story.  I'm doing line edits and noticing where the staging needs some work.

Working Out:  Monday was a work-out day.  I'm still cutting back on the rowing machine, doing 650 cal / hour instead of 750; managed 150 cal in about 15 minutes.  Added some front dips to the routine; going slow so I don't pull anything in my right arm.  I've dropped the cable cross flies on the theory that contributed to my tennis elbow.  Did the usual lateral pull-downs, triceps pull-down, and barbell work.  I meant to do the pec flies, but didn't.  

Dialogs and Working Out

Scene:  The ride to school:

The Child (from the back seat):  "Today's a testing day."
John (driving):  "Oh, what are they going to test you on?"
TC:  "I don't know."
J:  "Will they test you on telekinesis?"
TC:  "Huh?  No."
J:  "Will they test you on clairvoyance?"
TC:  "What?  No."
J:  "Will they test you on Defense from the Dark Arts?"
TC:  "I like the Dark Arts."

Working Out:  Monday (4/20) I didn't go to the gym to give my tennis elbow a rest.  Wednesday I went in and did a reduced routine, being careful to start the rowing machine slowly and not bring the bar much above my solar plexus, to keep my grip narrow on the lateral pulldown machine, to keep from using a vice-grip on things and I switched to a pec-fly machine on the theory it would keep me from putting too much pressure on my tight tendon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Totems and Museums

Last Saturday, we visited my sister and went on a hike.  Driving to the hike was a strange experience.  When I was an elementary school kid in the 1970's, the bus would drive us the long way home -- they wouldn't let us cross the street -- with the result that we'd sit on the bus for about 15 minutes looking at rural homes and farms outside of Corvallis.

I sometimes have dreams where I hike or wind up on the other side of the hill (the northern western side); usually I meat bears (once a polar bear) or have some other significant animal encounter.   So during the drive I had a strange dream deja-vu and expected to encounter totem  animals.

Instead,we hiked about three miles.  Probably the funniest moment was when Julie and  I were talking, and we suddenly got onto the topic of "Frog Woman," which was one of her old knick-names.  The next thing I knew, she said something about eating flies, and we both went "mllen-uurp!" as we stuck out our tongues to catch imaginary flies.  If our dad had been with us, he would have, too.  
The trail we took had a wonderful view of Mary's Peak.

Sunday we went to the Portland Art Museum to look at the Italian Design exhibit.  I was wearing my contact lenses, which made reading the plaques explaining everything difficult, so I was constantly switching between wearing and not-wearing my reading glasses.  I wished that some of the men's clothing was as fun as the women's clothing.  The piece I wanted to wear the most was a fun cloak with wide triangular lapels which (I think) would have become a hood.  Another piece  I found enchanting was a sequined dress which looked like flowing water.  The sequin and bead work was crazy; I imagine it must have taken a team of seamstresses a week to create just a square foot of the designs.  

I think if I were to go next time, I'd sit and sketch.  

You Deserve a War Today...

Scene: outside at Cafe John, as the evening spreads her cloak across the sky...

The Child (in the midst of bloody "imaganative play,"swings stick "gun"):  "...every man's mustache was covered in blood!    Right, lads!  FIRE!  (Runs across back yard.)  Surround the village!  FIRE! (Makes machine gun noise.)  Chop down the trees and burn them!  FIRE! (More gun sounds.)  FIRE!  Anyone who tries to escape, round them up and--"

John (increasingly disturbed by the marshal cacophony):  "Bud!  Why don't you rework--"

The Child:  "--Take them to McDonalds! And force them to eat! -- What?  Why are you laughing?"

Friday Journal

Writing:  I've been tinkering with the Sword and Sorceress piece.  I realized that the final scene would be easier to write with a map, so I made a quick sketch to keep everything and everyone clear.  I feel like my bandits are a little too stupid to live, and I need to either make them a little smarter or else figure out a reason why they've been a viable option for so many.

This has been the week that the irises open.  I love the irises we have:  they're purple and they smell divine.  I might cut one or two to bring into the house because I love the scent so much:  it's dark and earthy, but not so cloying as narcissus, and not so bitter as frankincense or myrrh.

Working Out:  Friday is typically not a work-out day because of my schedule.  My right tennis elbow reminds me it's there when I lift anything up with my palm facing away from me -- so I'm guessing I'll have to figure out a way to do the over-head declined "skull crusher" move or drop it altogether.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mid week ruminations

Writing:  Got home after Wordos, and then managed to stay up too late.  So, I got up late to get enough sleep.  As I stood in the shower, I recalled an old Rhonda episode from the seventies, where the metaphor of three tea cups called, work, play and sleep were shown.  When you pour too much from one cup into one of the others, you make a mess.

On the radio the other day, I heard a story about a Jewish composer who put his music in the hands of one of his students in order to preserve it before the Nazis killed him.  The thought of trying to save one's work, and of hiding a mentor's work struck me, and I need to put it into the list of story prompts.

Working Out:  Wednesday was a work-out day.  Alas, I'm developing tennis elbow or something in my right elbow.  So I started out slower on the rowing machine 650 cal/hour instead of something in the 700's.  I also stuck with some more traditional free weight things.  The working theories are that I'm gripping something too strongly, that I pulled something last week when I yanked the rowing machine up to 1000 cal / hour for about 40 minutes, that I pulled something with a "skull crusher" declined lift.  Bother.

Dream:  I had a Renaissance Fair dream.  I had a silver wire crown which rested over my eyes and on the bridge of my nose (in waking, the crown felt a lot like my glasses, and probably looked like the Elf-King's crown in the Hobbit movie).  I think I could fly.

I'm pretty sure this dream is a result of giving a short lecture about writing magic in fantasy stories to the Wordos, followed by coming home to Mark watching a Dr. Who episode with a minotaur alien.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Weekend Update

Friday I was in a Reddit interview, an AMA or "Ask Me Anything" about leading critique groups.  I've never used Reddit before, because it seemed like one more internet distraction, although I know some writers who use it for research, networking, and fun.  Reddit brought me back to my USENET days.  It was interesting and retro at the same time.   I'd say it was successful.  I'm not sure how many lurkers there were; most of the questions came from about the same four people.

This weekend was generally laid back.  I had a bad headache Saturday.  Mark thinks I should keep a headache journal.  I'm going to guess that this one was a combination of sitting at a computer funny, sleeping funny, and not working out since Wednesday (or was that Tuesday?)

Sunday the sun came out and I was tired.  I decided that I'd spend a minimum of time on electronic things and read.  So I chose a book in the stack I have from the library and read Orson Scott Card's "Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction," wherein I re-discovered the MICE (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event) Quotient (I'd first heard this concept at an OryCon panel with Mary Robinette Kowal and David Lavine, and I'd forgotten that OSC wrote about it in 1990).  

True Confession Time:  The rest of the family has been playing Clash of Clans, so I finally took the plunge and started, too.  I wish there was a web-interface for it so I could play on a large screen instead of a mobile, but it's a mobile-based game.   And... gee, it's built to be a time-sink.

Workout:  Monday I did 180 calories in 14 minutes, with a cruising speed of about 720 cal / hour.  I think I've pulled something in my right arm just below my elbow.  No reverse barbell lifts for me (not that I do them).  Mostly I do a lot of the free weights in the ten to fifteen pound range, so I think it's nothing serious.  I suspect that I might have pulled something when I was doing the row machine, and I'll have to be careful to build up to those moments where I'm at 1100 cla / hour instead of plunging into them.

Writing:  I've been plugging away at a fantasy story for Sword and Sorceress.  Considering the reading period opens in a few days, I need to get a move on it.  I've been revisiting other pieces as well.  I should add critique of three pieces, and an evaluation of a jury piece set.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing and Haiku

Writing:  Chipping away at the fantasy genre short story.  Usually I'm an intuitive/exploratory writer, but what's nice about the loose outline is that I can jump right into a scene and start writing.  If I can keep everything a "candy-bar scene" that should be nice for the reader -- and likely there will be some connective scenes I need to do.

I made a conscious effort to use the emotional motivation from one of my "tapes" and, my goodness, that got me into the protagonist's head.    I keep telling myself that I need to figure out some good fantasy world oaths for when people swear.  I gave in and used "Lady's Tits" as a swear phrase; it just makes me giggle, like "Great Moons of Neptune!" ... I'll edit it out later.

The family woke a little earlier than normal.  I got up to make an extra cup of tea, and I looked outside at our yard.  The moon, which had so brightly shone east of Scorpio, was now muted in the growing dawn and palled by thin clouds.  Our cherry tree is in full bloom; for about another week the branches will be covered in pink blossoms and the tree will look like some cotton-candy growth imagined by Dr. Seuss.  I took a moment to enjoy the luminous pink, and then returned to the keyboard:

The blooming cherry
Under the veiled moon at dawn
Reminds me to fix

Electronic words;
Clouds gather over the moon
and blossoms will fall.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Journal: April 9

Not much in the remembered dreams department, although the other night I did dream that The Child had dreamed a scene out of a book-on-CD we listened to in the car.  The Day Jobbe has been somewhat stressful, because I've had to deal with brain-dead factory-installed OS 10.10 Yosemite with Samba 3 playing badly with Microsoft Active Domain servers.  I'm hoping the solution is to force the Macintoshes to always use Samba 1.  As The Child said when I was explaining this to him, "Aye Caramba! It's the Samba!  It's the one dance I don't do."  [Editor's note: nope, Samba 3 is not the whole problem... stupid Yosemite and Active Domain Servers.]

Working-out:  Tuesday I went in and did the routine.  I should probably figure out some things to do at home for those days when going to the gym doesn't work.  Like push-ups and planks.

Writing:  I've re-started getting up a little before 5 AM to wright.  It takes about fifteen minutes to have the tea brewed and mugs in place, so I've been aiming for 4:45.  Since I need about seven and a half hours of sleep to be functional, it helps to be in bed with the lights out by 9:30.   

The latest project is a short story for Sword and Sorceress.  I've got a lose outline, and I keep repeating Forster's example of the differences between "The king died and then the queen died," and "The king died and then the queen died of grief."  

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Writing Journal: April 6

Easter was fun, but starting Friday, various family members have been taking turns being sick.  I'm hoping that I'm not next.

Writing:   Monday I managed to spend a few hours going over a fairy-tale manuscript.  It's at 7000 words and will probably get longer.  It's fun writing it, but 7000 words is not a marketable length for short story unless I serialize it   The fairy-tale voice isn't in vogue at the moment (and really hasn't been for a while) which also hurts the manuscript's marketability... and it also distances the reader from the characters, so I've been attempting to round out the characters.   I may have to do another pass on each scene and tighten things up mercilessly.

Tuesday I switched to outlining a more regular mainstream fantasy story.

Working Out:  Did 160 calories in about 13 minutes with a cruising speed of 730 cal/hour.  I managed to do some different free weight routines, focusing on my pectoral muscles.  I think it will even out some of the muscles so that my chest looks more uniform (instead of unevenly developed).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Lunar Eclipse 4 April 2015

For once, the cat's antics were somewhat welcome, as he woke me up with enough time to gather some warm layers and my camera and tripod and go outside to watch the lunar eclipse.

I was slightly surprised that the sky had cleared, as it was rainy when I'd gone to sleep.  Low clouds hung in the east, and there might have been a wisp here and there, but the Big Dipper, Arcturus, Scorpio and Antares, and bunch of other stars and constellations were clear, as was the shrinking moon.

The moon was a tiny sliver when I stepped outside at about 4:45.  I managed to set the tripod up next to the house with a view of the moon and its reversed crescent, the horns pointing down instead of away from the horizon like a regular one.  The air was not too cold.  Dawn wouldn't be for another two hours or so.

The sliver grew less, and the argent glow never left the top.  An orange glow appeared at the bottom of the moon and faded as it moved up.  The moon was a copper orange mirror, with a silver ouroboros of light circumscribing it.  I found myself singing We Three's "Center of the Sun," along with the recording of Sarah Favret, Judy Johnson and Kim Scanlon singing in my head.  And then the whiter light along the moon's top really did look like a snake swallowing a thin line of a tail wrapped around the burning orange part.

I'd pause and take a picture -- carefully not looking at the camera screen so I wouldn't have a rectangular afterimage superimposed over the night sky.  Once again, I wished I had a telescope mount for my camera or my tablet.

I was looking down a funnel of all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth stretching their focus from the rim of the world and painting the moon citrine.  If this had been the early nineties, I'd be freezing with the Carleton Druids, gathered together for a ritual, celebrating the dance in the sky and tuning ourselves to the seasons.  I miss those rituals, when we'd all gather together under the sky (OK, or in someone's house).  In the pause, I thought about my writing and the cycles of the sun and moon, the Solar Eclipse sex scene from "The Mists of Avalon," and how thinking about my writing during a lunar eclipse felt like Londo Mollari wanting to meet the shade of a former emperor in the Babylon 5 episode "Day of the Dead."

The moon sank lower

And then the moon sank into the trees.  I tried moving around, but next to the house had been the best vantage point.  The moon was leaving eclipse totality, and the diamond bright white was driving the citrine away.  It was about 5:20 when I came inside.

I went through the pictures; I should have put the camera on manual and set the focus to infinity, because I would have gotten more shots -- the six good ones I stitched together into a mosaic.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Yesterday's Tapes, Tomorrow's Stories

Arg.  I've been wanting to write, and write mindfully, and practice, and this has been the last few days where that doesn't happen.  Dion Fortune was right:  when you try to accomplish a spiritual goal, a zillion distractions rise up to bar your way.

Working out:   Monday was a Work Day from Hell, and I got home late, so I went to the gym Monday night.  I did about 150 calories on the rowing machine in about fifteen minutes.  I've managed to reach a cruising point of about 720 cal / hour which feels good.  I did some extra free-weight things.

Writing:  Tuesday, someone asked me about Arcosanti, and the next thing I knew, I was reliving a particularly obnoxious moment.  I apologized for stepping onto a soapbox and we joked about Capricorns never forgetting, and she said she was a Cancer and that Cancers feel people's emotions, and I said, "Oh Capricorns feel things, too; we just don't let anyone see."  And I joked about how I should have a circle of friends, and we'd light candles, and I'd mime returning various strings to pictuers of some people from my past, and I'd say things like, "This is the string of anger that ties me to the past, and I return it to you."  

So.  Here I am Wednesday morning, writing, and focusing on writing.  But I sometimes play tapes in my head, and I'm thinking that one way to put the tapes away so I can focus on today and where I am may be to use a version of the tapes as character motivation.  Hmmm.   That  leads to the question of just how close to get to writing as therapy.  But then again, on the other hand, I read about published authors who have had terrible years and written from that place.  Anyway, Tuesday's particular tape has given me a story idea I want to work with.

Working out:  Wednesday was another day where the afternoon was spent dealing with Other Things and writing.  So I went to the gym in the evening.  I managed 200 calories in 17 minutes, followed by some weights-on-string lunges, lat pull-downs, triceps curls, power-station curl-ups, some dumbbell curls, and some other free-weight work.  

Writing:  I'm  working from some hard-copy of a rough draft of a 6000 word fairy-tale re-working.  Forster's aspect of Plot is rearing its head, and I can see that I need to show the Princess's emotional reactions much more than I am now.  On a story "and-then" level, the manuscript mostly works, but the plot "why" is weak.  I can see how the Princess's dialog in one section needs to be returned to match the Elizabethan style she used in the first quarter.  And as I was working out, my rowing machine guided fantasy of the Moon Priest in a Boat Prow turned a little bit into imagining the Princess getting out of her dilemma.  
 Here's some pictures of the falls at Sweet Creek Falls.  Mark wanted to go on a hike, and when he asked me where we might go, I suggested going to a waterfall.  I think I've gotten these pictures a little out of order.  When we went, it was a little after noon and the sun was mostly shining on the water.
 Sweet Creek flows between two steep hills.  As the day progressed, the sun sank be the ridge.  The creek never looked the same twice.
 We were lucky; the temperature was just right.  We saw many of Mark's co-workers on the trail.
 I like this photo because the rocks look like they're floating.
 This is the next-to-last fall on the creek, and the end of the trail.  Below this fall the water collects into a cauldron, and then plunges down again into a swimming hole.
Mark thought the water matched my hair.

After this fall, we drove up a narrow road to the top fall about a mile away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Over the weekend we went on a hike to Sweet Creek Falls.

Along the trail there were many blooms and plants.  I saw this fern unfurling and used my camera's macro lens to take a picture of it (actually, this is one of three -- I like this one the best because I managed to get an angle which showed the growth's depth).

The engineering, if that's the right word, involved in packing all the leaves and the stem into a compact disk is incredible.